ORONO – With one large exception, the satellite photo taken at night of the eastern United States and shown Friday at the University of Maine was peppered with small white dots that identify development.
That exception was an approximately million-acre swath of land in the heart of Maine that is the focus of discussions between a landowner who wants to develop 426,000 acres of it and residents who want the land maintained as a working forest and left undeveloped.
If the development is permitted, that area also could be peppered with white lights.
Plum Creek Timber Co. has asked the Land Use Regulation Commission to rezone the acreage to allow the development of 975 house lots, 30 subdivisions, three recreational vehicle parks, 116 rental cabins, a marina and three resorts.
“Plum Creek proposes this massive development in the largest undeveloped area east of the Mississippi River,” Cathy Johnson, North Woods project director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine, told about 20 people on Friday.
Johnson, who displayed the satellite map, was a guest speaker at the first of a two-part series on Plum Creek’s plan sponsored by the Mitchell Center at the University of Maine.
Jim Lehner, Plum Creek’s northeast representative, and Luke Muzzy, the company’s senior land asset manager for Maine, will be guest speakers at the center on Sept. 30.
While Johnson said her citizen-supported organization is opposed to the plan because of the amount of development and its location, she said she thinks there are alternatives.
Johnson pointed out that the timber company owns property next to Greenville which would lend itself to development and which would help the local economy, leaving the character of the rest of the region intact.
Major nodes of development proposed in Plum Creek’s plan are in Lily Bay, in Kokadjo, where a 3,000 acre resort is planned, and in Rockwood, where a 500-acre resort is planned, according to Johnson.
What is troubling, she said, is that along with this development, the plan also would allow commercial development, such as beauty parlors, overnight lodging, restaurants – everything that the Greenville area now offers.
Johnson used Suncaida, a resort in the state of Washington, and the Yellowstone Club in Montana, as examples of what has occurred on land once owned by Plum Creek. The latter is a high-end club with million-dollar house lots, she said, showing pictures of the development.
As for Plum Creek’s proposal to protect some ponds from development, Johnson said that about half are not developable anyway because of existing laws or wetlands.
She also took issue with the company’s 30-year “no development” zone, which she said is not permanent and does not exclude all development.
Maine conservation law intends that a development such as the Plum Creek proposal be offset with permanent conservation to strike a publicly beneficial balance, Johnson said. She said Plum Creek’s proposal was not a donation, but an attempt to meet the legal requirement.
The Maine Attorney General’s Office has said that the proposed zoning offered by Plum Creek does not provide any conservation beyond what exists under current zoning and does not ensure development will not happen throughout their lands in the future, Johnson told those gathered on Friday.
Asked by an audience member if Plum Creek officials were willing to negotiate on points of their plan, Johnson said, “They have shown no flexibility. I see no willingness to negotiate.”>/p>
Until the Land Use Regulation Commission considers the timber company’s application complete, which has not occurred, it’s up to the public to say whether Plum Creek’s plan is what Maine residents want or not.
“What Plum Creek has given us is the corporate vision,” Johnson said.